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Archive for November, 2009

Hey, Check Out These Blogs!

My friend Tess is traveling to Turkey this month.  I think you’ll really enjoy following her journey at www.suhurat.wordpress.com  and my friend Kathy also has a great blog www.SophiaSophia.com.  It’s loaded with travel tips and great finds from her recent trip to Oregon.  I don’t think either of them will cover such diverse topics as slugs in your boots, stinging nettles biting your butt; and I don’t believe they’ve ever met the Sow Bug Family Circus (but there was rumor that the family might be visiting shirt tail kin gypsies in Istanbul, so there’s possibility).  Their posts tend to be intellectual, well written and informative – but, hey, don’t hold that against them.

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What A Day It Was

Thanksgiving morning arrived along with grey skies and misty rain.  Perfect weather to gather new friends together to warm the interior of my heart and home.   The night before was spent setting the tables and prepping food.  After hours of  laying out the ingredients for muffins and shortbread to be baked early in the morning, plucking rosemary from the garden for roasted potatoes, preparing egg custard, chopping, slicing and sauteing vegetables, I found myself longing to own a Ron Popeil (king of the infomercial) Chop-O-Matic and a Dial-O-Matic to speed up the chopping and slicing; or maybe the Six Star Knife Set (buy one, get one free) – 60 knives slashing through potatoes and onions in an Edward Scissorhands frenzy.  So much Hoe Time has left my hands prep cook rusty.

But come morning, it was all worth it.  Sleepy eyed folks sauntered in with bouquets of flowers in hand and helped themselves to mimosas and coffee.  My concern about how crowded the small space might feel was laid to rest as congenial introductions and conversations crossed back and forth turning my living/dining area into one of those wonderfully small bistros, cafes, trattorias that one comes across tucked down a side street.  That cafe that you  have to go into to taste the sounds of the community within.   And then it struck me, the sound of my new community, wrapped up in the scent of butter and sugar, feta cheese and kalamata olives, the warm spices of Thanksgiving – cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves made it a little easier to be away from my family and friends who have seen me through some of the most joyous and heartbreaking Thanksgivings I’ve ever known.  

I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the folks who joined me for breakfast.    To the left is my buddy, Lew.  When I write stories about the guys down at Local Grown, Lew is Bud.  Lew knows that so I can come clean here.  Center stage is William, owner of Local Grown and the man responsible for introducing me to the “guys.”   To the right is Cheryle (named after a tug boat).  Cheryle is from Houston and no matter your mood, after five minutes with Cheryle, your smile is as big as the Lone Star state.  She’s a keeper.  Behind Cheryle, and  out of sight, is Akemi.  Akemi is my emergency contact person here on the island because as Akemi says “I am the most reliable and stable person on the island.”  I believe Akemi.  Akemi is also a brilliant artist and I’m lucky to own a piece of her jewelry.  Elizabeth is to the left forefront.   I just met Elizabeth that morning and didn’t have time to do any serious cub reporting, but she was lovely.  Next table, please… 

That’s Molly to the left, William’s daughter, and UW student extraordinaire.  To Molly’s right is Deb Crocker.  Deb is my boss.  Deb is the boss that I warn customers about.  Deb is the boss that when I say “Look Deb, there’s a kitty,” to help customers make their escape, Deb actually looks for the kitty.  Deb brought me a snow globe of a pine tree with little toss rings that you’re supposed to try to get over the tip of the tree.  Deb doesn’t know it, but I’ve already taken it apart and put the rings on the tree and  filled it back up with water.  I will show her how I bested the tree.  Next table, please…

That’s Clark in the foreground.  Sorry about that pesky flash, Clark.  At the head of the table sits Tamara.  Clark and Tamara are attorneys in California.   Tamara has come to Coupeville to write a screenplay.  I am going to keep this picture of Tamara (but I will crop out Deb Crocker who is slyly trying to get in the picture) because when Tamara wins her Oscar for best original screenplay, I will be able to hold up her pic and say “I knew her when.”   While Tamra commutes back and forth from Whidbey Island to California, Clark tends to their bees in West Marin.  Lucky for me because Clark presented me with a jar of amber nectar that I’m using to sweeten my tea.  “Thanks, Clark, I needed….” I’m not even that cheap to go there. 

Speaking of sweetness, where is the beautiful Carol, teacher of yoga, nutrition, Pilates, some Latin form of dance seduction, and fortunately, for me, a masterful massage therapist?   Next time I’ll make sure she’s posted.

As my last guest was leaving around 1:00, the sun made an appearance and cast a warm, low angle of light through the trees; fat rain drops glistening like Harry Winston diamonds.   Once the dishes had been washed and put away, the silverware returned to my gram’s felt lined wooden chest, I blew out the candle in front of Nate’s picture, gave a wink to my parents in their wedding day photo, and ran my hands across the picture frames that hold my longtime friends and family; and I gave thanks for this blessed life I’ve been given.

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“Blue skies shining above…nothing but blue skies do I see”…  Okay, the sky is still grey and it will be for a very long time, but the two sets of sparkling blue eyes I saw today at the grocery store lit up the day and warmed my heart.  

When I walked into Safeway (this is a 20 mile round trip and only made when absolutely necessary), I spied an old gent, probably in his late eighties talking with one of the store reps.  He was looking for Millie.  Over the loud-speaker they asked “Millie, please come to the front of the store to join your party.”   As I walked down the aisle, I spotted Millie.  I just knew it was her.  Millie is one of those fragile looking old women; the kind whose legs and arms appear uncertain of their respective jobs; a woman whose thin, unadorned lips trembled slightly as she tried to return my smile with one of her own; a woman whose eyes and mind remain in soft focus; a woman whose powder grey wig, too large for her head, tilted to the left.   I watched as Millie joined her man at the front of the store.  I heard him say “I thought I had lost you.  Now that you’re back, I’ll keep my eye on you.”  

Millie and her man happened to be right next to me, checking out as I did.   As Millie walked by I noticed her diamond bracelets and commented how beautiful they were.   Millie didn’t pay much attention to me, keeping those soft focused eyes and mind on her cart; however, her man looked at me and held up his left hand to show me his shiny gold wedding band.  “Why that looks brand new,” I said.   “Today,” he said.   “You just got married today?”  He nodded and smiled so wide I could see all of his perfect false teeth.   “Blessings, blessings, blessings,” I called to him and he gave a little wave over his shoulder, never turning around.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to lose sight of his Millie now that he had found her.

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Little Shit Sighting

It’s  been about three weeks since I last saw Little Shit.   Last Friday I was able to leave the house without my whiplash neck brace – the one I had been wearing due to the brake slamming episodes he’s put me through since my arrival.   In fact, that very same day I was able to turn my head to the right and to the left without crying out; and the nightmare where I was being run out of town by the villagers bearing torches and screaming “bunny killer,” “California trash” had stopped.   But there was a break in the weather; about a five minute break; just enough time to pull his white cotton tail butt out of the bushes and dart…fake out…run back into the bush…dart…fake…no, go for it…half way, switchbak…fake out….go!   To which I respond:  slam on brakes…jerk…brake, head snap…spinal mishap…brake.   I remember watching Mutual of Omaha’s The Wild Kingdom when I was a snip of a girl and I don’t remember Marlin Perkins ever going through this sort of scenario.  Of course, Marlin played it safe, sending that poor dupe Jim Fowler in to handle the really life threatening situations.   Looking to my right, because that’s where my head was turned when I heard the new round of whiplash occur, I found I had no Jim to send in as second string.   I noticed Little Shit has packed on some pounds to see him through the winter, and this may just slow him down.  What with Little Shit’s weight issue and my having to work with the neck brace…well,  you see how badly this could turn out.

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Thanksgiving Breakfast

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love to have friends gather around – especially at the holidays.  This year I’ll be enjoying Thanksgiving with new friends while I hold close the memories of holidays past spent with dear old friends and family.   My good friend, Jan, asked me to share the recipes for this year’s Thanksgiving breakfast.  I’m a “little bit of this, little bit of that” cook so you won’t find exact portions – unless it’s a pastry – that’s where measurement is a must.

We’re starting out with Mimosas – Champagne and orange juice – I say more Champagne than orange juice.  Fixing up a pitcher right before everyone arrives, or having someone help you (okay, that’s never going to happen, but I’ve read that it’s supposed to be fun to have folks help out in the kitchen) takes the pressure off last-minute pouring and measuring.  Good coffee is a must – especially since WEB, barista extraordinaire will be here; and there will be a variety of teas to choose from.  Nate sent me some amazing brute cocoa powder by Cacao Barry (first spelling English; second would be French) so I may put together a pot of my chai hot chocolate.

Something akin to a fritatta/quiche will be the main dish.  I’m using 14 eggs, 1-1/2 cups of cream, 1-1/2 cups half and half; salt and pepper to taste – mix it all together.  The filling will be sautéed spinach, mushrooms and green onions and 1 pound of feta cheese – tomato basil, herb, plain…it’s all good.   Once the spinach, mushroom, green onion mixture is cool, I’ll place it in a buttered 13 x 9 casserole, top it with the feta and pour that luscious egg mixture over it.  Depending on your oven, in about 45 to 50 minutes you should have a little bit of heaven ready to be served up. 

Now, in my world, you can’t have breakfast without potatoes.  Rather than preparing the usual hash browns or home fries, I’ve decided to take small red potatoes, cut into chunks, coat them with Ponticelli olive oil.  (This olive oil came from my friend DZ who was married to Umberto.  Umberto lives near Umbria with their children.  Umberto makes olive oil and wine – il Toppello.   Oh, did I mention that her son, Stefano, is a race car driver?  Is that Italian, or what?!)  Once the potatoes are coated nicely with olive oil, I’ll throw in some chopped, fresh rosemary from my garden, slices of garlic, lemon zest and kalamata olives.   I’ll roast the potatoes at 400 degrees until they’re nice and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Keep an eye on the olives, rosemary and garlic.  You don’t want them to burn.   Hint:  If you want, you can heat the rosemary, garlic and lemon zest in the oil and let it steep.   If you do this, strain the oil.   

Okay, we’ve got Mimosas, eggs and potatoes.  I’m a sweet and savory breakfast gal so there’s got to be something sweet on the menu.  I like to offer something healthy (because I know it will be left behind and I’ll have a head start on getting back to the real world the following morning); and then I like to include muffins, breads and the like.  This year the healthy offering will be slices of fresh persimmons, beautiful Fuji apples grown here in Washington and Bosc pears.   On the side I’m offering Greek yogurt (full fat variety) sweetened with local Wildflower honey (this honey has the most beautiful floral aftertaste of any honey I’ve experienced) and grated fresh ginger.

In memory of Shiela Lukins of Silver Palate fame I’m making her Pumpkin Tea Bread.   My take will be a little different in that once I put the recipe together, I had leftover pumpkin and cream cheese….what to do?…what to do?   So, I softened some butter and mixed it in with the cream cheese – about 4 Tbs. butter to 1/2 cup cream cheese.  I tossed in some sugar, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, nutmeg and the leftover pumpkin – about 1/2 a cup.   Whatever muffin or bread you’re serving, I know this will be a great topper.  I know this, because I did a test run.  And then I got on the treadmill for two miles, followed by working on the property for 4 hours.   I’m making fresh cranberry (no dried) and orange muffins, and another sweet tooth item that I’ve yet to determine.    Of course, if you really know me, all of this could change three or four times before Thursday morning. 

Hoe Time with Michaelene

Boy, this wind is going to keep me busy, busy, busy.   I rake, it blows.    Miss Jan said it was the “circle of life.”    Of course, no one said we shouldn’t keep the circle neat and tidy.  There was a break in the wind, and when I say wind, please remember I’m talking 50 plus mph; wind that stops me in my tracks on my way to return my library books.  I don’t think Rabbitt is going to cut me any slack if I’m late with my books – wind or no wind.  And remember, I’m from California – some of the locals are just waiting for me to crack.  Hah!  I spit on their doubting shoes (symbolically, of course). 

I believe I’m turning into one of those spiders that they gave LSD to back in the 60’s and 70’s to see how their webs would be altered.  Well, it isn’t so much the design of my web, as spinning my web all over the  place.  I have the intention of working in one area, and something calls me to another area mid-hoe.  I work there for a short span (of attention) and then I’m off to another area – no rhyme or reason.  Right now I’ve got about 15 piles of cedar needles running up the road to the back of the property.  It looks like giant gophers have run amuck through the grounds.   I’m using a rake to gather up the leaves rather than using my blower because, honestly, I don’t want my neighbors to know that I’m out there trying to manicure four acres.   It may be as dumb as turkeys voting for Thanksgiving, but I can’t seem to stop myself.

This time of year on the island is really one of my favorites (I may feel differently after three more months of it); but right now, it’s magical.   The rain has puffed up all the moss spores so that rocks and trunks laid to the ground are covered in greenery.  I like running my hands over the moss; feeling how soft it is; the dampness clinging to my palm.  Today I came across a solitary mushroom hiding under a fallen log.  I set my rake aside and knelt down for a closer look.  The ground was covered with moss and tiny drops of rain sat atop the mushroom’s crown.   I wouldn’t have been surprised had a fairy peeked out from behind the rocks.  

The wind is blowing full force tonight and I can hear the cedar needles laughing on their way down to the ground.  We’ll see who gets the last laugh.

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My friend, DZ, and I went to a Champagne tasting…the real stuff from France…on Sunday.   In addition to the Champagne (I wish you could hear DZ say Champagne…just like a French woman) Bay Leaf served up smoked salmon with creme fraiche, caviar on blini – there was enough creme fraiche with the caviar that I ate it.  Had it stood alone, I would have ended up pulling a Tom Hanks in Big; and there were triple creme cheeses that I would have snuck into my pockets, but they were like softened “buttah.”   As if that wasn’t a treat in itself, DZ brought these two amazing desserts from a bakery in Seattle to share with me.   DZ doesn’t like chocolate, and I’m working on not holding that against her, so she brought a caramel mousse and a blackberry mousse.  Evidently, the clerk behind the counter wasn’t paying attention when DZ told her she didn’t like chocolate and BOTH desserts had chocolate in them.   My lucky day, or what?!

And we needed a little libation to keep us warm.  Gettin’ cold up here in Coupeville and the wind…oh, my.   I’m pretty sure I felt my house move yesterday and the day before.  Winds gusted up to 50 and 60 mph.  And isn’t that the way it always is?  I just got an entire section of the property raked and now I have to start all over again.  I see myself as being very busy while living here…some would say overly compulsive in my neatness, but they really  haven’t seen anything yet, now have they?  However, I didn’t go out during the wind and hail because I’ve been told stories about trees falling on people.  And last year someone got so excited about a lightning storm that they ran out to experience it up close.  Unfortunately, that very person was struck and killed by the lightning.   One down in the Coupe.  

However, after two days of howling wind and a night of rain, today was beautiful; the air pristine, Front Street looking like a movie set with Penn Cove behind it.   I’m enjoying the drama of the weather; the way the sun can be shining and in the blink of an eye the dark clouds kick their way across the sky.  If the weather holds, I’ll be out sawing up a small tree that the wind snapped in half, cleaning up fallen debris.  I’m sure I’ll have some hoe time stories to share with you.

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Blue Skies Shining Above

DSCF1155_edited-1Today was magnificent.  The sky was blue and the snowcapped mountains loomed large in the distance.  The air was crisp and visibility went on forever.  I had the day to myself to  sit out on the pier and drink in the sunshine and my tea; then drive along the cove to my errands.  

The lights have been hung and I’m busy planning Thanksgiving breakfast.   Of course, the food is second to who’s sitting in the chairs, and right now there are 10-12 folks coming over so I’m equally busy strategically planning where I’ll put them all.  

Oh, by the way, I went to Safeway today and got gas.  Bud was right.  They’re still giving a credit of 3 cents on every gallon of gas you buy if you use your Safeway Club card.  I dropped in 15 gallons and saved…

Bud and Roy:  45 cents!

Good night, all!

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